Volume 51, No. 4 | Small states in rough seas: Denmark and the North Atlantic: past, present, and future

Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen | Historical learning to structure dialogue on the future relationship between Denmark and the North Atlantic

Denmark has been constitutionally linked to the North Atlantic since the Danish-Norwegian union of 1380. Denmark is a Continental European small state, whose relationship with Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland has been shaped by external shocks from great power conflict and national liberal ideas that all point towards ever greater and eventually full independence for the Faroe Islands and Greenland. This development continues in today’s international system shaped by power transition from West to East and the rise of China. Denmark and the North Atlantic need a common intellectual framework to analyze, debate and decide their future relationship based on historical learning. The 1918 union agreement between Denmark and Iceland made Iceland a sovereign and equal state in a personal union of shared monarch with Denmark. This union is a relatively less discussed but important contribution to historical learning for the future Danish-North Atlantic relationship. 

Guðmundur Hálfdanarson | "Separation will mean the Destruction of Iceland": Icelandic independence-politics and separation from the Kingdom of Denmark

According to Danish critics, Iceland was too small and empoverished to support independence and had to settle with Danish leadership. The Icelanders aimed late for sovereignty and full separation from Denmark under these conditions. This Danish-Icelandic connection was not acceptable in the long term for Iceland. The Danish state was defined as a Danish nation-state, the latest from 1864, and the Icelanders were always guests in this nation-state. Danish politics made no attempt to rethink the state as a multinational state and even less to build one nation. Therefore, the Icelanders had to demand initially separation and then full divorce, even though they had a weak basis for running their own state. The Icelanders could not remain in the relationship with the Danish fellow nation in the south. 

Jens Christian Svabo Justinussen | The unity of the Realm in a federal perspective

An ideal-typical federation is based on an agreement between its member states, has a federal constitution, a separate federal parliament, two tiers of government and an independent institution to solve conflicts between these two levels. How far from such an ideal type is the unity of the Realm, and is it possible to create a full federation consisting of Denmark, Greenland and the Faroes? The analysis shows that the Realm has several federal features and could be conceptualised as a semi-federation. There are possibilities for further federalisation, but the demographic differences between its parts prevent a full federation. The federal perspective is relevant in the 21st century’s Arctic development since it can capture and conceptualize some of the most pertinent political and social dynamics within the Realm and the challenges it faces. 

Maria Ackrén | Independence for Greenland: fiction or reality?

Greenland has a political will to become independent, and most of the political parties are in favor of independence. The issue of independence is not a new idea, but it has become more topical in recent decades. The nationalistic movements started already in the 1960s as well-educated Greenlanders in Denmark established protest movements against the Danish state and the way Denmark was treating its former colony. The article sheds light on the political dimension from the start of the first nationalistic movements up to the present. How has the political dimension changed over time? What are the alternatives to full independence, and how are these played out in the Greenlandic debate? The article only takes the political dimension into consideration and disregards economic conditions or other potential circumstances. 

Marc Jacobsen | Arctic: Greenland’s strategic arena for greater foreign policy sovereignty

Greenland’s foreign policy representatives use the great international attention to the Arctic to appear and act as a more sovereign foreign policy actor. This is possible due to Denmark’s dependence on Greenland to maintain its “Arctic state” status and because Greenland’s foreign policy competence is open to interpretation. The article analyzes how representatives of shifting Greenlandic governments have expanded the foreign policy room for manoeuvre in discourse and praxis to strengthen Greenland’s position at Arctic-related events. This has been achieved by, among other things, 1) outspoken discontent in the Arctic Council, 2) tacit gestures at the Ilulissat Declaration’s 10-year anniversary, and 3) by mimicking full sovereignty at the Arctic Circle conference serving as a particularly useful platform for enhancing bilateral international relations due to its more informal setup. 

Article outside the theme

Michael Fehsenfeld | Politicization of volunteering in co-production between the public and the voluntary sector: “We should incorporate the idea of the village pond”

It is widely acknowledged that the substance of collaboration between public sector and third sector has changed over the last decades. But how does this change affect the understanding of concepts like volunteering, citizen and the relation between state and citizens? This article explores political discourses regarding the relation between the two sectors. The theoretical outset is in anthropology of policy and its understanding of policy as a construing praxis that produces and defines meaning of and in the social world. The empirical data consists of 30 interviews with local politicians and senior administration officials from five Danish municipalities. Based on Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), the analysis shows how political discourses produce an ideal citizen identity and an understanding of the municipality as a consensus-based community, legitimizing these through idealized expounding of common cultural and historical symbols. 

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